Chapter 20: Recaller
- your leg will be all better in just a few weeks. Trust stronger trees with your weight in the future, all right? There's a girl -
That was my grandfather Carlisle's voice. It took me a moment to identify it because it was how he sounds to himself, not to others, but when I recognized the girl he was talking to as a younger, human Esme, I realized. I know this story -
- you know, Elsie, I met your grandpa years before I ever turned? It was the oddest coincidence that we ever saw each other again -
That was one of my memories. That was my grandma, telling me something, when I was four months old.
- I was sixteen, you see, and I'd broken my leg -
I know what that's like - I, Elspeth, that's happened to me, my legs have been broken before -
- is that her? It's been ten years, but she's still... God above, she's dying, they're taking her to the morgue, what are they doing? Her heart is still beating! Save her, you fools...! No, they're right. They can't save her. I can. -
That was my grandma he was saving. He left her, back when he'd finished treating her leg, because he thought she should have a human life. But...
Where am I?
It was dark. I was somewhere where it was night. I thought I was sitting on Jake's lap. Were we in a car?
- what would my father, my real one, not Carlisle, say if he saw me now, elbow-deep in engine grease? But I like this, I know how to fix the car, I can make it whole and make it run. I could build this car from scratch if I wanted to. I know enough about how it works that I could take scrap metal and make a car. Not much consolation for the fact that I can never make a life. I can never make a little happy child who will play in the front yard and get tired and come in and want supper. But I can make this car run, and I can give it fuel -
That was my aunt Rosalie...
Why was I in a car?
Addy was sitting up front -
- "Try it again!" I'm so sure we can fly, really fly. That's one power I've never found. No telekinetic or gravity-tweaker or other miscellaneous witch can really, truly fly, but maybe Benjamin can manage it, and if he can, so can I. He laughs - I think he may be having as much fun as I am - and collects the air and jumps, but we must still be missing something. He can throw himself through the air for significant distances, and it is better than jumping. But he can't finely control that much air. He's catapulting himself, whipping up a wall of wind to push and then having to let it go when it gets big enough for the job. He's not flying. I want us to fly. I gather some air of my own; it could still be a matter of focus or creativity, not of a fundamental growth in the power...
That was Addy. I had... a whole lot of memories in my head. Did she do that?
"Where are we?" I asked, finding my voice difficult to work, but managing three syllables.
"The Trafeli household," Addy said. "It's so convenient that you're conscious. Let's see if they're kindly disposed towards you."
- "Gianna Trafeli, sir," I tell him. Is he a vampire, really, truly a vampire? That's what I was looking for, but it's so strange to have found it! And... and rather terrifying... but my brother needs help and there's only so much the doctors can do -
I don't remember much - or rather I don't personally remember much - about Gianna. You could count the number of times I saw her on one hand, although I guess I spent a few weeks I can't remember in very close quarters with her. But the first twenty-three years of her life were just - there, if I wanted them and even if I didn't. Just as easily called to mind as anything that ever happened to me, except for the part where she was human the last time Aro read her and had forgotten a lot.
But she might help. "She's - they're - here?"
"They are," said Addy. "Well, a ways up the road and around the corner; the car is stolen, you see, and when it's found I'd rather it not be right in front of our destination. Wake your Jacob and we can be on our way."
"Jake," I said.
- "Jacob Black," my Jasper snarls. Really? Well, of course really - but why would a Quileute be calling Bella? That is what the name means, isn't it, that was the surname of the alpha family? Or it's a coincidence - or - oh no - did she - Edward's noticed something he doesn't like about my mate's thoughts, and he's standing between my Jasper and his Bella. But I don't understand yet what's going on, I can't see, Elspeth's in the way over there and something else is blocking me too, I can't see -
"Nnng," said Jake. "Elspeth! Are you okay?"
"I think so?" I murmured. "The memories are still - popping up - but I can... be here, too, if that makes sense."
"Good," said Addy. "Let's be on our way, shall we?" She got out of the car, and Jake picked me up and followed her. "The fellow who gave me this address indicated that Maggie, Gianna, and Ilario all live together at number 220 up ahead." She pointed. "And have for the last two years."
- "You're so pretty!" Maggie exclaims, and Bella obviously doesn't know quite what to think. Well, not "obviously", not by my standards, but she's waiting, watchfully, as the situation unfolds, and doesn't answer the Irish visitor when she speaks again: "I'll take good care of her." I wish I knew what Bella was thinking, I wish I could read her - but no, I shouldn't wish for that, not when she doesn't -
Jake carried me almost half a block while I processed that memory. "What was it?" he asked, when I pulled out of it and blinked and looked around.
"My father's memory, of when Maggie met Gianna."
"You have your dad's memories? I guess that makes sense." Jake paused for a beat. "Also potentially awkward."
"Well, it isn't like he's here, so I don't see how - it's -"
"Wait, never mind, don't think about it," Jake said, but it was too late, and I shrieked.
"Jake, I remember my parents' honeymoon! How could you make me think of that? I could have gone on forever without ever bringing it to mind -"
"I'm sorry!" he yelped.
"Ugh! Ugh!" But there was no getting rid of it. It was already there before he mentioned it, I just hadn't consciously processed it. "Ugh. Just never bring it up again. Quick, ask me about something else so I can deal with a totally unrelated memory."
"Where was Addy in 1857?" asked Jake swiftly, and Addy chuckled.
"Prague, mostly - a date, please -"
"Fourth of July," he said. "Noon."
- Miklos isn't back yet. He said a quick lunch. Why is it I don't just turn all the witches I find, so they won't need to take so many breaks? Yes, yes, low profile, and I don't care very much if they go on to die of old age after I'm through with them. Some of them might get greater powers as vampires, but most of them wouldn't, or if they did it would only be a case of thinking faster and they wouldn't surpass me with the copied version. And anyway, I'm not interested in babysitting newborns for a year until they can focus on things more complicated than blood. Such as, of course, magic. More efficient to learn what I can from Miklos, teach what I can, bid him goodbye, and find my next pupil -
"Here we are," said Addy.
It was a cute house, nestled snugly between two others and painted white with flower-filled window boxes in front of each firmly closed pair of curtains. It looked as quiet in the pre-dawn darkness as its neighbors, but if vampires really lived here, they certainly weren't asleep.
It's probably best that you knock, Addy sent to me.
You can put me down, Jake, I said, and he did, and I walked up to the house.
My knuckles had barely touched it when the handle turned and the door swung open. There stood Gianna.
She was quite tall, and looked down at me with a polite, distant expression in her black-edged golden eyes. "Can I help you?" she asked quietly.
"I hope so," I said. "I'm Elspeth."
Her eyes went very wide. "Elspeth! What are you doing here? Who are these people?"
"These are Jacob and Adelaide," I replied. "We -"
"Come in out of the street," Gianna said. "Come, come. All of you. But if you," she added, pointing a stern finger at Addy, "even think about harming my daughter, I will kill you. My mate will be able to confirm whether you have thought about doing so or not. I recommend that you avoid it." Daughter? She didn't mean me, did she...?
"That's the heartbeat upstairs?" inquired Addy. I listened for that, and heard it - a human's heart, slow compared to mine - and realized that Gianna must have somehow had or adopted a daughter of her own recently. "Relax. There is so much prey in the world without guardians; it's not my sort of entertainment to go after the better-protected kind."
Gianna nodded once, clenching her jaw, and we went inside with her. Maggie and Ilario were at the foot of the staircase, and looked on as we filed in. Jake appeared to take in the uniformly gold eyes, but seemed edgy anyway and put his hand on my shoulder protectively.
"Elspeth?" asked Maggie. "What is going on?"
I opened my mouth, but Addy was creeping towards Maggie, licking her lips. Maggie backed up, edgily. "I won't hurt you," said Addy, and it was true, and this seemed to impress Maggie more than it would have affected anyone else. She stayed put, and Addy got close enough to touch Maggie's arm. "Mmm."
"What are you doing?" Maggie asked.
Addy took a respectful step back. "I copy powers by touching witches," she said. "I was curious about yours." She pursed her lips, then turned around and tapped my cheek.
"Okay," said Maggie, "and what is going on?"
"Addy, you know what's happened over the last day and I don't, could you explain, please?" I asked.
Addy nodded, took one moment to add her memory of my incoherent reverie to my massive collection, and then - to judge by their facial expressions - sent a summary to the three other vampires. Maggie had a pleased look on her face, like she was viewing unusually attractive artwork of some kind - I guessed she just really liked truth, and the boost my power gave it was nice for her.
"I'm glad you're not in Alaska," I said, when it looked like Addy was done, "but why aren't you in Alaska?"
- I like this place. It's remote - less temptation. I do agree with my sisters that it's about time we stopped killing the men who we take to bed with us, but it's going to be a hard adjustment. There's lots of wildlife here, and I suppose we can stay as long as we like, if we're not going to be taking humans for our food. No one will miss the occasional bear -
"Elspeth?" said Jake.
"Sorry. Did my question get answered while I was out of it?" I asked sheepishly.
"No," said Maggie. "Anyway, to answer you, we have a child. A young, human, extremely vulnerable child. It is not worth it to us to get involved in the Cullens' rebellion."
"How did that... happen?" asked Jake awkwardly, glancing at the three vampires.
"Wow, you're nosy," Maggie said.
Gianna looked fondly at her mate, but answered him. "I had some warning before I turned. So when we decided we wanted children, some of my eggs were on ice. We saved up to hire a surrogate and a donor -"
"I think he might be my lots-of-greats-grand-nephew," put in Maggie. "I did some genealogical poking around. This is all on the theory that my sister-in-law didn't cuckold my brother, of course, which is dubious, the hussy. I never liked her and Brian was too good for her."
"- and Molly was born. She turned two last month," Gianna finished.
"Oh, Elspeth, you might want to know," Maggie said. "After we heard from the Cullens that your parents were dead - we know they're not now, of course, or at least probably, but we thought they were then - when we went up to Norway to get the eggs out of the freezer, as long as we were there, we destroyed Bella's and the frozen embryos. Didn't want somebody ill-intentioned taking them and growing you a brother or sister who could be used for nefarious purposes. So, uh, sorry, I guess? You're an only child forever."
Jake squeezed me, but I didn't have much reaction to the news. I'd never even thought about the other eggs and embryos in the freezer. "That's okay," I said.
"Anyway," Ilario said, speaking for the first time, "we distanced ourselves from Bella's rebellion-mongering when she did it then, and that's worked so far. We don't want to get on their bad side -"
Behind me, Jake growled threateningly.
"Calm down," Ilario said, flaring his nostrils and looking like he didn't care for Jake's smell. "We don't necessarily have to turn you in to avoid their enmity. In fact, if we're lucky, it will never cross their minds that we exist. You just can't stay here. There's a selection of food in the fridge, for Molly. Help yourselves -" He gestured at me and Jake - "to some breakfast, and be on your way. You might have better luck with Siobhan and Liam," he added.
Addy's eyes widened at those names. "Siobhan," she murmured. "Do you know where we can find them?" I consulted my memories. My own were sparse on Siobhan - my mother had mentioned her, but didn't think she was a witch. My father believed -
- "Siobhan and Liam are old friends," my father says. Well, I call him my father in my head, and he is something like one to me. Didn't he - in a sense - give me life, if that's what this is? I can tell you're distracted, Edward, he chides silently, knowing I can hear him. I can reply to this letter saying that we'll postpone our visit, if you prefer...
"No," I tell him. "I think Esme would like to see Ireland. Now is as good a time for the journey as any." He smiles. He always smiles when he thinks he has the chance to make Esme happy. I wonder, not for the first time, if he would have ever changed me if he hadn't spent the seven years prior lonely for her, having seen her the once and left her behind (only to find later that the normal life he left her to was rife with pain). He wanted companionship, and thought her life needed to be left alone; mine, he could save. If this is salvation -
He thought she was a witch. I pushed the memories away.
"They should be in or near Omagh for the rest of the week, but beyond that we don't know," Maggie said.
I tiptoed over to the refrigerator and got myself some applesauce and leftover chicken, which I nibbled on cold. Memories - of chicken, applesauce, and nothing relevant at all - floated up and I let them; I drifted in and out of conscious presence. Humans had different taste sensations from me. Even people who didn't especially care for applesauce in particular had been enjoying it more than I did; to me it was just one of a thousand flavors of unpleasantness. Filling unpleasantness, at least. I toyed with one of Aro's meals' recollection of the flavor, trying to enjoy the fruit the way she had.
"You know," Gianna said to me quietly, "I was very sad when I heard you'd disappeared. We're in touch with the Cullens - they loaned us a fair amount of money when we were just getting started, though we've all got jobs now -"
"Baby, I don't have a job," laughed Maggie. "I have a game."
"She trounces people at poker for a living," Gianna explained, smiling faintly. "Anyway, your grandparents let us know what had happened. We thought you were dead for five years. I'm glad you're okay, Elspeth."
"Thank you," I said, feeling awkward; I covered it with another bite of chicken. Jake decided that I was safe enough to leave for a minute while he looked for breakfast of his own.
"Poor Bella," murmured Gianna. "I wonder where she is. Carlisle and the others were expecting her to show up, even after they were told you'd been captured." She motioned at me.
"I wonder," said Addy, "why she's not in Alaska. Alice saw her heading there, or claimed to. I suppose Alice could have been lying, but why? Or I could have missed it, if the Denali vampires reported her to the Volturi when I wasn't paying attention..."
"What?" exclaimed Maggie.
"Oh," said Addy. "Kate, Tanya, Eleazar, and Carmen are reporting to the Volturi. Who have David hostage. Did I leave that out of my summary? I didn't mean to."
- "Master, not her," I plead for the fallen beauty.
"A witch?" inquires Aro, looking speculatively at her where she fell under Alec's blanket. I hope she isn't too frightened.
"...No, Master, but not a threat either. Her covenmates were the careless ones. She's new, there's still the brightness in her eyes..." Such beautiful eyes, but I don't remark on that part. "They didn't teach her properly. I'll take responsibility for her." And he looks at me, and looks at Marcus, who sighs and touches the back of his hand, and then Aro shrugs and nods in Alec's direction and the beautiful one slowly pulls herself off the ground -
Gianna's eyes were very wide, and I snapped out of Eleazar's memory of meeting Carmen. "Elspeth, when you said you were glad we weren't in Alaska..."
"I mostly meant I'm glad you were here when we came looking, but I..." I left out the word guess. "I'm also glad you're not getting spied on for the Volturi."
Gianna looked at me for a long, still moment. "Elspeth... did Chelsea..."
"Yes," I whispered. "I... I kind of worked out a way to fight off part of it... but only the part where she builds up new relationships, not the part where..."
- snip, snip -
"Oh, poor child," sighed Gianna, and she looked about to hug me, but thought better of it.
- "Esme is going to try to hug me. I realize she means well, but what part of "Chelsea got me" is too complicated for her to understand? In what way does that not imply not hugging me?"
"You could just let her," I said softly. "It would make her feel better -"
I put down my spoon and held out my arms toward Gianna for a hug, and she embraced me.
Jake and I nearly cleared out the Trafelis' refrigerator between us. Maggie and Gianna and Ilario quietly bickered about whether there was any safe way to tip off my relatives about their cousins' deception. None of the three of them seemed able to stay on a single side of the argument.
"Calling them now, there's no way to be sure that the Denalis won't hear," said Ilario. "We don't want Volturi attention. Molly -"
"The Volturi have completely lost their restraint," said Gianna. "Completely. They've gone from a stabilizing force which enforced laws - albeit harsh ones, albeit partially according to whim - to an unstoppable power seeking more power at any cost."
"If they don't remember we exist, if we keep quiet..." murmured Maggie.
"They're not waiting for excuses anymore. Following the rules - which we aren't anyway, Molly is two but she's not stupid and she's human and she won't be two forever - isn't a guarantor of safety," growled Ilario.
"But they have no reason to be interested in us," Gianna said. "Maggie's a witch, but not a very powerful one -"
"She's completely redundant with and inferior to Charles," Addy inserted.
- this fellow doesn't get it, he's still lying to me. The air is dead between us without one single prickle of truth. "Run that by me again?" I say, langurously. It's a new thing I'm trying, culling the dishonest from the population by letting prey go if it doesn't reflexively lie to me upon being questioned about whatever topic I happen to think of. This one's not likely to make it. He'd probably be more forthcoming if he knew what I'm doing, but that wouldn't be a fair test. Anyone will sing like a bird if they know you'll be able to figure out whether they're doing so, and know you'll kill them if you don't. I suppose it could have given him the creeps that today's question is "do you have any children?" -
"They've got so much manpower now, though," Ilario hissed. "Wolves and all those witches. They can afford to divide their attention, to punish little infractions, to tighten their hold."
"It's not like we can turn Molly now," Maggie said. "That's against the law too. I don't remember the exact cutoff age..."
"Fourteen," said Gianna. "And it's only that low because of Jane and Alec. And that is still too young; I'm not having our baby turned that young unless she pulls an Ilario and gets cancer. But yes, if they decided to notice us, and decided to punish us, her life would be forfeit."
"What if," Maggie whispered, "they notice the trend where vegetarian covens seem to cause a lot of trouble for them, per capita..."
"What would we do," asked Ilario, "call Carlisle and say, oh, by the way, your family, your trusted cousins, they're traitors..."
"He'd believe me," said Maggie. "Or Elspeth."
"Or me," put in Addy.
"Yes, or you," said Maggie. "Being believed isn't the problem, it's having a plan."
"Do the Cullens have a plan? Or are they just sitting in Alaska, congratulating each other about being willing to make a stand?" Ilario muttered.
"They haven't been sending regular status reports," said Gianna. "For fair enough reasons. But my suspicion is that they're just trying to... gather witnesses, or something, and wait for the Volturi to come to them and hope that all the watchful eyes will be enough to prevent a massacre."
"Carlisle's so idealistic," sighed Maggie. She snapped her head up and looked at Addy. "Did you know I was a witch before you got here?"
Addy blinked. "Sort of, sort of not - I had the information stored but hadn't looked at it. If you're asking if I can tell whether someone is a witch by getting close to them - the answer is that I can make an educated guess at range but I have to touch them to make sure."
"Well," said Maggie, "I know a lady who might be a witch, or might just be one hell of a good planner, but either way, she would be handy right about now."